Saturday, June 20, 2009

Do Your Specialists Get It? - Do you?

In a discussion recently with a group of specialists, the question came up as to why general dentists give their patients several choices instead of just recommending one specialist. Most specialists think it is for liability reasons – that the general dentist does not want to take the blame if something goes wrong. It is a convenient explanation, but totally off base.

If you are a general dentist and referred one of your patients to a specialist and the patient came back raving about the experience and then thanked you for the referral, it would get your attention. If the patients you referred to that particular specialist routinely responded in like manner, you would start thinking twice about referring them to anyone else because that particular specialist made you look good – really good! If you are specialist and want more loyalty from your referring dentists, wake up and start giving the patients something to talk about so they can’t help but talk about their experience when they return to their general dentist. It seems like a simple formula. I am not sure why most specialist don’t get it, but they seem more interested in boosting their out of control egos and arrogance than they do TREATING patients in a way that reflects positively on the person who referred them. (And I’m not talking about clinical treatment.)

Now let’s turn the tables for a moment. What are you and your team doing to really give your patients something to talk about after their appointment? Take for example a recent new patient who works for a major employer who came into an office with which we work. After his initial visit, the phone started ringing at the dental office with other employees from the same company. They called simply because this one patient was telling everyone about his experience at the dentist. Since half the people don’t go to the dentist on a regular basis, they have a level of guilt that they are trying to relieve if someone will just give them a good reason to pick up the phone. All it takes is just a little enthusiasm from someone they trust to push them over the edge.

So what did this office do to get the patient to talk? They did what they do with every patient. They treated him right, made him feel important, listened to him, met him where he was emotionally, and followed the entire ToPS system for total case acceptance. They did it right!

So, whether you are a specialist or a general dentist, if you don’t have raving word of mouth, wake up and get on your game. Word-of-mouth is only the most powerful form of marketing in dentistry if you give your patients something to talk about. Make the commitment today to be a “specialist” – a specialist in creating such a compelling experience that patients can’t help themselves. They HAVE to talk about you.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

No More Comfort Zones

While I have talked about getting out of a comfort zone in speeches and seminars for the last 20 years, there are probably no two people who have challenged my own comfort zones more than Dr. Roy and Frances Hammond. Six years ago, they challenged me and Cheryl to do a week of humanitarian dental work in Central Mexico with them and a group of Crown Council dentists. After that experience, we were hooked. With their excellent leadership, Crown Council members everywhere have now contributed thousands of hours and dollars through participation in our collective dental humanitarian efforts in the Dominican Republic and other parts of the world. The vision for what can be accomplished in these remote parts of the world has been theirs. Their purpose has been to educate, assist and help the people we serve to be self-reliant. Not to just give them a handout, but to ultimately help them help themselves.

Roy and Frances are responsible for another big jump out of my comfort zone – motorcycle riding. Five years ago, they invited Cheryl and I to be on the faculty of their LearningCurves company ( which provides dental adventure tours on motorcycles combined with dental continuing education. Up until that time, I had never touched a motorcycle! But thanks to their encouragement, it has been one of the most thrilling things that Cheryl and I have learned and done together. Each year for the last four years we have ridden with Roy and Frances along with twenty other dentists for four days on what we have titled our “Miles for Life” ride to raise money for Smiles for Life ( benefiting the dental humanitarian work in the Dominican Republic. We leave again on July 15 to rumble through Yellowstone National Park for this year’s ride.

Roy and Frances have created living metaphors for getting out of one’s comfort zone through purposeful change in our lives. Our lives and our personal relationship has benefited immeasurably because of their influence.

This last week, we were saddened by the passing of Frances Hammond. She will be dearly missed by Roy, her family and all of us. We are so grateful for the influence they have had on our lives. It is difficult to say Roy’s name without Frances’s and Frances’s without Roy’s. They are truly an exemplary couple who have walked together, worked together, taught together, and ridden together ever since they were 14 years old. They are a model of what true love and marriage should really be. We are blessed to have them as an example in our lives.

Frances, we will miss you. Roy, we are with you as you carry on the meaningful things that you and Frances have started together. Thanks to both of you for leading the way. Thanks for making a difference in our lives and the lives of the thousands you have touched and served around the world. The world is a much better place because of Roy and Frances Hammond.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Invisalign Alignment

There has been a lot of chatter this week about Align Technology’s new requirements for Invisalign providers of a minimum of 10 cases a year and 10- hours of CE. I made some comments on the Crown Council Forum about this topic this week, but I would like to add a few things here about your practice and about Align.

How should you react? This is clearly a moment to take an objective look at your practice. If you have a procedure that you are doing less than once a month, are you really serious about it? It probably is not worth it to you or your practice to do Invisalign anyway if you are not going to do it that often. So just bag it and refer your cases to…the orthodontist.

Then on the other hand, maybe this is an opportunity to get serious about doing more Invisalign cases. Rethink your attitude about it and your approach. Like most everything, it is a matter of focus. If Invisalign treatment is part of your philosophy of care, then get serious about promoting it and do more of it.

Re-examine where you stand and make a decision. Whichever way you go, it will be a good move for your practice. You will ether do more Invisalign treatment which will be good for your patients and good for your practice, or you will not do any at all, which will free you up to get more focused on the things about which you are really passionate. Just make a decision.

Now about the company…Align Technology.

If you want a great example of how NOT to deal with your customers, you’re seeing it with the example of this company. Let’s put things in perspective. Imagine sending a form letter out to your entire patient base (including those you had just seen recently face-to-face) to let them know that they are no longer welcome in your practice unless they come every 6 months without fail and complete at least 80% of their outstanding treatment. You would never do something like – ever, unless you were so arrogant and out of touch with reality that you routinely made it a point to upset your patients and run people off.

If you wanted to raise the standards, any rational person would start by talking face-to-face with its best customers to explain what was coming, give them an action plan to be successful with the new standards, and then give them some lead to time get up to speed. They would also set up a different class or provider…”beginners” and “select.” The beginners would be provided with special services to help them get above the 10 cases a year mark and would be given a goal time to do that. The select providers would be given VIP services because they are doing more than 10 cases a year. In other words, they would do everything they could to help their clients be successful and communicate it in such a way that the client felt supported, appreciated, and encouraged to do better. Unfortunately, that is not the case here. But from what most people tell me, it is very “aligned” with the actions of the past with this organization.

There is also a great opportunity here for completing technology to rush into the market with the competitive advantage of great customer service and philosophy of “partnering” with their clients for success. With the right ingredients, a company like this would take the industry by storm and practitioners would flock to it. It is only a matter time before it happens. A market will only put up with an arrogant provider for so long before it responds with a better option. That is the beauty of a competitive market-based economy.

So, start making some decisions about the direction of your practice. The time is right. Thanks to Align Technologies, they are giving you a great opportunity to do that. Let’s thank them for that. In the meantime, if you have an idea for a competitive product, get some good customer service behind it and go for it! There are going to be plenty of angry dentists out there who will jump on board just for spite!